Countries raise 10 new concerns at WTO meeting

Countries raise 10 new concerns at WTO meeting

by Sue Jones
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The United States was involved in one of the 10 new issues raised at a recent World Trade Organization meeting on food safety and trade.

Almost 50 specific trade concerns (STC) were discussed at the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures meeting in March. Issues included pesticide maximum residue limits (MRLs), animal diseases, and COVID-19 related measures.

Ten concerns came up for the first time including one from Brazil about undue delays by the United States in opening its citrus market.

Three new concerns were withdrawn, following progress in negotiations. Others involved pesticide tolerances and the environment, collagen for human consumption, and phytosanitary certification requirements.

New and older topics debated
China expressed concerns about European Union limits on ethylene oxide and dichloroethanol and restrictions on the import of collagen for human consumption. The EU stance on spice imports and other food products was mentioned by India.

Several previously raised topics were discussed including BSE-related restrictions, maximum levels for contaminants, legislation for endocrine disruptors, and rules on veterinary medicinal products.

Representatives from the United States, Canada, Australia, India, Japan, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the European Union again spoke about China’s actions related to COVID-19 that affect trade in food and agricultural products.

Officials from Australia, Canada, the UK and the EU once more raised the problem of China’s delay in approving requests for new listing and reinstatement of export establishments. These and other countries, including the United States, also called for action on Chinese measures for registering overseas manufacturers of imported food.

The next meeting of the SPS Committee is scheduled for June 22 to 24. Also in June, there will be a session on the use of virtual audits and verification systems in regulatory frameworks and a workshop on transparency.

Capacity building projects
In March, the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) co-hosted an event to strengthen sanitary and phytosanitary capacity in French-speaking African countries.

The STDF helps developing and least developed countries comply with the WTO SPS Agreement and expand market access. It has supported more than 65 national and regional projects in Francophone Africa.

Partners shared the results of two projects, one on food safety requirements in the production and export of corn in Burkina Faso, and another on tackling SPS risks to meet market demands for Penja pepper in Cameroon.

In Burkina Faso, training and sharing of best practices on using the biopesticide Aflasafe, as well as sampling and analysis of aflatoxins, contributed to a rise in corn exports from 4,238 tons in 2018 to 145,920 tons in 2020. Export revenues increased from $1.8 million to $24 million.

Canada invested $200,000 (U.S. $158,000) in STDF from 2021 to 2022 to help developing and least-developed countries meet international food safety, and animal and plant health standards.

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